Unlike most games I saw at E3, I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Strange Brigade. I'll also fully admit that I went into it not expecting much. My initial thoughts were that Strange Brigade was just Left 4 Dead but with third person and cheesy 1930s pulp storytelling. After getting through my demo... well I still sort of felt like that. However, Strange Brigade is almost absurdly fun and well worth keeping an eye on.
Before we could actually play the game, we had to pick the character that we were going to play as. Rebellion gave us a heads up ahead of time that they pre-made the load outs so that we didn't have to worry about it. Each character had a primary weapon, a secondary, a grenade, a passive buff, and a special medallion ability. I settled on Nalangu Rushida, mostly because she looked cool but also because she had a submachine gun, which appealed to me.
After this, we got a quick story explanation. We learn that an agent has been killed but has discovered that a mythological figure known as Setkei has awoken and is causing havoc. So now the Strange Brigade needs to get together and airdrop into the area to stop Setkei. It's not particularly deep, but it's done with such a flare that it manages to instantly capture the pulp feel it's going for. This is especially helped by the narrator, who has the absolute perfect voice for this. Strong voice acting can go a long way towards selling a game, and Strange Brigade pulls this off effortlessly.
Right when the level starts we're met with a weird situation. There's four players, but only three health potions in camp. This is a theme we'd be seeing a lot of in Strange Brigade. You see, Strange Brigade likes to blur the line between cooperative and competitive. Sure you're four teammates trying to make it through the level and bring down an enemy. However, you're also four treasure hunters interested in personal glory. All the treasure found is kept by the player who found it. So you want to help your team ... most of the time. The fact that no one saw me find a hidden path leading to an isolated treasure chest later? That's going to stay my secret.
It wasn't long before we came to our first combat encounter. Here we got to see some RPG elements present in the game. Every time you deal damage to an enemy you get to see their health bar so you know exactly how much you're doing. Naturally, you want to aim for the head to deal the most damage. However, status elements also played a role. The most common enemy we fought in the demo was mummies, and lighting them on fire was a surefire (heh, get it?) way to deal extra damage. Of course, it's because they're burning, slowly sapping their health, but also because as long as they're on fire their defenses are massively lowered.
This is where the more cooperative elements came in. I was the one carrying around Molotov cocktails, so that put me on "lighting the mummies on fire" duty. Once I did so the rest of the team could easily pick them off. It may seem strange to even bother with these steps, but the mummies were actually surprisingly difficult to bring down without lowering their defenses first. It helps encourage teamwork and made sure we at least stuck together long enough to get the job done.
However, all is not lost if you get separated. The level we played was full of traps that can be utilized to help take down the enemies. These came in all sorts of forms, though most were one use. Explosive barrels were always fun, but I particularly liked freeing wooden logs with spikes that would swing into enemies. I'm a sucker for sending ragdolls flying. In addition to this, we did find a multi-use trap in the form of spinning blades. By shooting a crystal over the blades, they'd extend from the ground and spin for a few moments, killing anything caught in the trap. Anything includes teammates, so you do want to watch out when deploying such a trap.
As you kill mummies they'll leave souls behind, which you can absorb into your medallion. Absorb enough souls and you can activate your special ability. For my character this meant jumping into the air and slamming the medallion into the ground, sending out a fiery shockwave that burnt all enemies unfortunate enough to be close to me. However, I saw another character raise their hands and shoot lightning like they were a Sith Lord. I'm excited to see what other kind of medallion abilities would be available.
Of course, we are treasure hunting, so you'll find plenty of gold. Halfway through the level we also came across a workbench, where we could spend gold and runes to upgrade our weapons and give them unique properties. I ultimately chose to have my submachinegun fire and reload faster and to fire bullets that would ricochet into other enemies. However, I saw some interesting upgrades that included things like shots that would burn targets, freeze them, electrocute them, or even sap some of their health and give it to yourself. It's a neat bit of customization that added an extra element to the game.
Sadly it was at the end of the demo I did run into one major glitch. During the final fight, I kicked an enemy into an area he clearly wasn't supposed to get to, causing him to clip through a wall. I giggle and moved on, figuring it to just be a ragdoll thing. Unfortunately, it turns out all enemies had to be killed to finish the fight, and so the game hung waiting for us to kill that last enemy inside of a wall. Thankfully, telling the developer about what I did led him to toss a grenade into the same spot, where it killed the clipped enemy, triggering the final cutscene. Hopefully, incidents like that will be cleared before launch.
Our demo ended with a giant monster appearing, smashing a mummy in front of it and setting up a climactic battle that will have to wait for the full release. I am rather excited to see this full release. Strange Brigade has all the style I'd expect from a pulp loving piece, and it manages to nail the cooperative gameplay quite well. Hopefully, it only gets better from here.
Strange Brigade will release August 28th on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One for the price of $49.99.